The Sign Of

They Asked for a Sign Jesus claimed he was the Messiah and the Son of God. First century Jews wanted proof and asked for a sign. Jesus told them the only sign he would give them would be the sign of Jonah. (Matthew 16:4) Later, the meaning of this cryptic reply became clear. Jesus would suffer and die, and be resurrected on the third day. We are so familiar with the story it doesn’t have much of an impact. But for many Jews and gentiles of the first century it was in.prehensible. Even Jesus’ own disciples didn’t believe it. No one had ever heard of such a thing. Jesus is saying, "I am the Son of God, and here’s my proof: I am going to die. You are going to bury me. And On the third day I am going to .e out of the grave alive." It sounds like the number one, all time great, super stunt, doesn’t it? Can you imagine Houdini or David Copperfield making such a proposal? Can you imagine anyone else even considering a "trick" like that? Nevertheless, that was the task Jesus set up for himself which would prove he is the Son of God." Sign Fulfilled So how did it turn out? Jesus did die. He walked right into it knowing full well they were going to kill him. You have got to admire his courage. And yes, they did bury him. But did he .e back form death? His apostles claimed he did. The Gospels provide us with four detailed stories of the episode. Let’s examine these accounts. Arrest, Abuse, and Trial Jesus showed his anxiety in Gethsemane. He knew the ordeal he was facing. Those frequent prayers and Luke’s .ment about his sweat dropping like blood (Luke 22:44) give us a vivid picture of Jesus’ mental anguish. The Jews arrest him, and his friends and supporters flee. Jesus is taken to Caiaphas, the high priest. The whole Sanhedrin is convened. They give him a mock trial and condemn him to death. But that doesn’t seem to satisfy them. They want to rub it in: they spit at him; blindfold him; hit him; and insult him. After Jesus suffers through this humiliation, the Jews take him to Pilate. Pilate wants no part of him, and upon hearing Jesus is a Galilean sends him off to Herod. Jesus won’t perform a miracle for Herod, so he and his soldiers ridicule and mock Jesus. Then they return the Man to Pilate. Pilate hoped a good flogging would appease the Jews; that is what he proceeds to do. The Romans used a whip made of several strips of leather. Upon the ends of these strips were embedded small pieces of bone or lead. It was specifically designed to rip bits of skin off the victim’s back. How many lashes Jesus received, no one knows. Jews traditionally limited themselves to thirty-nine. Romans were under no such restrictions. Many flogging victims died as a direct result of this punishment. But Jesus endured it, and the Jews were still not satisfied. Pilate saw he was getting nowhere in his attempts to dissuade the crowd. He relinquished and turned Jesus over to his executioners. The whole .pany of Roman soldiers ridiculed Jesus putting a scarlet robe on him, a crown of thorns on his head, and a staff in his right hand. They mocked him saying, "Hail king of the Jews." They spat on him and took him away and crucified him. Crucifixion Luke says the Roman guard forced Simon from Cyrene to carry Jesus’ cross to the place of execution. (Luke 23:26) Surely this assistance had nothing to do with .passion for the condemned. The obvious explanation is that by this time Jesus was physically too weak to carry the cross. The lack of sleep plus abuse and torture had taken its toll. Archeologists have discovered the bones of a crucified man near Jerusalem who died somewhere between A.D. 7 and 66. The discovery shed some light on this type of execution. Heavy, wrought-iron nails were driven through the victims’ wrists and heel bones. It was a long, agonizing death. If they wanted to speed up the process, they would break the man’s legs. Without these limbs, the condemned would not be able to support his own weight. Breathing progressively more difficult, and the victim dies from suffocation. At midday, darkness fell over the whole land and lasted until three in the afternoon. Jesus gave a loud cry and died. Two others were crucified with Jesus. The Jews didn’t want these crucified bodies hanging around on the Sabbath. At their request, Pilate ordered that the legs be broken to hasten death. When the soldiers got to Jesus, they saw he was already dead. One of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear. (John 19:34) Burial and Guarded Tomb Joseph of Arimathea requested Jesus’ body for burial. Pilate checked with the centurion in charge of the execution detail. The centurion assured Pilate that Jesus was dead. With Pilate’s permission, Joseph and Nicodemus took the body for burial. (John 19:38-42) These two men followed Jewish burial customs in preparing the body. A mixture of seventy-five pounds of myrrh and aloes were wrapped around Jesus’ body with strips of linen. (John 19:39-40) Near where Jesus’ body had been crucified was a garden with a new tomb cut out of rock. (John 19:41)They laid Jesus’ body inside (John 19:42, and Joseph rolled up a large stone against the tomb’s entrance. (Mark 15:46) The next day, Saturday, the chief priests and the Pharisees asked Pilate to order a guard around the tomb to prevent Jesus’ followers from removing the body and claiming that he had .e back to life. (Matthew 27:62-64) "Take a guard," Pilate answered. "Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how." (Matthew 27:65) They did just that. They made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and posting a guard. (Matthew 27:66) Resurrection Early Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Salone, Joanne, and possibly others went to the grave site to anoint Jesus’ body with prepared spices. (Matthew 27:56) (Mark 15:40) (Luke 24:10) They didn’t have time to ac.plish this task Friday evening. It was too close to the Sabbath, which for the Jews begins Friday night at 6 pm. Offhand, you would think the seventy-five pounds of myrrh and aloes Joseph and Nicodemus had wrapped around Jesus’ body would be sufficient. More than likely, Mary and .pany were not aware of the spices previously applied. As they walked to the tomb, the women were wondering how they could remove the heavy stone. But when they got there, they found the stone was already rolled away from the entrance. (Mark 16:3-4) Furthermore, Jesus’ body was not in the tomb. What else? Conflicting Details at the Empty Tomb Matthew says an angel whose "appearance was like lightning and clothes white as snow" sat on the rolled back stone. (Matthew 28:2-3) Mark tells us "a young man dressed in a white robe" sat inside the tomb. (Mark 16:5) Luke informs us that "suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them." (Luke 24:4) John gives us yet another slant on the story. According to him, Mary saw the open tomb, but she didn’t initially go inside. Instead she ran to Peter and John and told them. They checked out the tomb and found nothing but strips of linen and the burial cloth which had been around Jesus’ head. Those two apostles left. Mary stayed. She stood outside the tomb crying. Looking inside she saw two angels in white seated where Jesus’ body had lain. (John 20:1-12) Notice that none of the Gospel writers were present on the scene when Mary and her colleagues encountered the angel(s) or men. As a result, all four writers are recording second hand information at this point, and somehow it got garbled. In any event, all descriptions say Mary saw a male figure or two of some sort. By every account, the angel(s) or men are dressed in white, they speak, and at least in Matthew, Mark, and John, the message is similar. What .es next? At this point Matthew introduces a side story which is absent in the other narratives. Matthew speaks of a violent earthquake. The angel of the Lord was seated upon the rolled back stone, and the guards were trembling with fear and fainting at the sight of this celestial being. (Matthew 28:2-4) Some of the guards report the incident to the chief priests. They in turn meet with the elders and create a cover-up story. The chief priests bribe the soldiers with a substantial sum of money and told them to spread the word that Jesus’ disciples stole his body while they (the soldiers) slept. They assured the guards if the governor heard this story, they would intervene on the soldiers behalf. The soldiers did as they were told. (Matthew 28:11-15) Returning to our main story, we pick up where Mary Magdalene had just encountered one or more figures at the tomb. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke the message was, "Jesus isn’t here. He has risen just as he said he would." Matthew and Mark both add. "Go tell his disciples he has risen, and he will meet them in Galilee." The Gospel of John has a slightly different angle. The white clad angels ask Mary why she is crying. She replies, "They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put him." She turns around and sees Jesus himself standing there. At first Mary doesn’t recognize him. Then Jesus calls her name. Mary cries out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher). The resurrected Jesus tells her to go and inform his brothers that he is returning to his Father. (John 20:12-17) It is easy to get bogged down in details surrounding the resurrection. We are tempted to dismiss the whole thing, and say, if the Gospel writers could not agree on what happened, why should we believe any of it? But when we think it over, we realize there is another side to it. If Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John had any intention of deceiving us, they would have at least made the effort to match up their stories. Likewise, if the early Christians had any thoughts of deceiving us, they would have amended the accounts to avoid embarrassing conflicting details. The fact that neither of these parties edited the stories to clean up these disparities credits the integrity of all four Gospels. Maybe so, but a conflict is still a conflict. How do we know what really went on? Essentials of the Empty Tomb Story But of course we do know the essentials. Here they are: Mary Magdalene, ac.panied by other women, went to Jesus’ tomb early Sunday morning. They carried spices to anoint Jesus’ body. Along the way, they discussed who would remove the heavy stone from the tomb’s entrance. However, when they got to the tomb, the stone was already moved. And Jesus’ body was not inside. They encountered some sort of human or supernatural figure(s) who spoke to them. In so far as the story goes, it does not really matter if the figure in white was inside or outside the tomb. Nor does it matter whether there were one or two of them. It doesn’t even matter if the figure(s) said: "Jesus is not here. He has risen. Go tell his disciples," or whether the angel(s) merely asked Mary why she was crying. Women Discover the Empty Tomb The important thing to remember is that early Sunday morning the grave was empty, and Jesus was gone. Mary Magdalene and her colleagues had the prominent role of making this discovery. That in itself is significant. Had the writers invented the story, a man, not a woman, would have been first on the scene. Why a man? A man’s testimony carried far more authority in first century Jewish society. It is another of those little realistic touches which keep turning up in the Gospel accounts. Surely the only reason Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John credit women with discovering the empty tomb is simply because that is what happened. John’s Eyewitness Account of the Empty Tomb Let’s turn now from that initial discovery to John’s account of subsequent events. Notice whenever John is present, his narrative provides us with such inside details as only an eyewitness could give. Mary Magdalene had just told Peter and John that someone had taken the Lord out of his tomb, and she did not know where they had moved him. Here John picks up the story: (Please note: The "other disciple" is John himself.) So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) (John 20:3-9) John was there. He is giving us details of what he saw. His eyewitness account assures us that these details are accurate. Three Appearances of the Resurrected Jesus John goes on to relate three appearances Jesus made to his disciples. The first was on the evening of that same Sunday. The disciples were behind locked doors because of their fear of the Jews. Notwithstanding the locked doors, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" (John 20:19) He showed them the wound marks on his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed. Jesus breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven, but if you don’t forgive them, they are not forgiven." (John 20:22-23) Luke adds, Jesus ate a piece of broiled fish in their presence. (Luke 24:42-43) Here we are provided with a firsthand eyewitness account of the resurrected Jesus. Jesus is a .pletely new type of being. He’s neither spirit nor flesh and blood, at least not flesh and blood as we know it. He has a body which can materialize in an enclosed locked room. His new body is, however, a physical body: one that has retained the crucifixion marks; one that can be touched; and one that can consume food. Thomas, the disciple called Didymus, was not there that night. He didn’t believe it. Thomas said that he wanted to see and touch the nail scars and the spear wound. He would not believe Jesus was alive until he could see and touch him. (John 20:24-25) A week later Thomas was with the rest of the disciples again behind locked doors. Once more Jesus came and stood among them. Jesus showed Thomas his hands and told him to put his hand in his side. Thomas believed. Jesus said, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:26-29) John reports that Jesus made a third appearance to them, this time by the Sea of Tiberias. They had been fishing that night and caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore and called out to them. They ate breakfast with him on the shore. After breakfast, Jesus indicated that Peter too would suffer crucifixion. Peter asked what would happen to John. Jesus tells him: "What is that to you? You must follow me." (John 21:1-22) Once again, John offers us numerous facts which only an eyewitness could tell. For instance, when John told Peter that the figure on the shore was Jesus, Peter wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and there was some bread. Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish you have just caught." Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. it was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn." John 21:7-11 Again, John claims he was there. He is telling us what he saw and heard. We have reasonable assurance that these details are also reliable. Then John says something mysterious. Here is how it reads: "Jesus said to them, ‘.e and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord." (John 21:12) We are reminded of John’s account of Mary’s first encounter with the resurrected Jesus. She mistook him for the gardener. Only when he spoke did she recognize him. (John 20:15-16) The two men walking to Emmaus didn’t recognize Jesus either until he was sitting at the table with them. When he broke bread and gave thanks, they knew who it was. (Luke 24:37) All of which heightens our curiosity about Jesus’ resurrected body. How did it appear? In what respect did it differ from his before-crucifixion physical body? That much is interesting in and of itself, but here on the seashore beside the Sea of Tiberias, John adds yet another twist to the story. The disciples had seen and touched the resurrected Jesus twice before. You would think that whatever the "new Jesus" looked like, his apostles would be able to identify him on the third sighting. Still though, John includes that curious statement: "None of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’ " Surely, the only reason John includes this confusing .ment is because, for whatever reason, some of the disciples really were wondering about that stranger on the shore. Was Christ’s appearance different on this (and perhaps each) occasion? That is what this passage seems to imply. We have seen it before in his Gospel, one of those little oddities that keep popping up which are the hallmark of reality. Again, John was there. He is telling us what he saw and what he thought. We have reasonable assurance that these details are reliable too. Note: All Scripture References are taken from the New International Version. 相关的主题文章: